Sustainable Energy at the Heart of the Next Development Agenda

Ed note. This is a special guest post from Senator Tim Wirth, vice Chair of the United Nations Foundation’s board of directors.

Among the international development goals proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda is that of “Securing Sustainable Energy,” including 2030 targets on ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement of energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. These three objectives, initially put forward in 2011 by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon under the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, are a welcome component of the report, as they are essential for eliminating extreme poverty and achieving a sustainable future.

While energy was not mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals established in 2000, it is widely recognized that  sustainable access to modern energy services is a necessary precondition to reducing poverty and improving health and education – indeed, to all of the MDGs. That’s why some have called energy “the missing MDG,” and why I am encouraged to see energy featured so prominently in conversations leading to the post-2015 development framework.

In the days since the High-level Panel issued its report, I have spoken with colleagues from across the international development spectrum, who have universally praised the panel’s inclusion of energy as a goal.  The Secretary-General deserves much credit for his leadership on this issue, ably supported by Kandeh Yumkella, who has campaigned tirelessly for Sustainable Energy for All as Director-General of UNIDO, Chair of UN-Energy, and now the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sustainable Energy for All.  As consultations on the post-2015 framework continue, serving as a resource for Member States and the General Assembly, energy must remain top of mind both as a means for eliminating poverty, and a goal for achieving sustainability.

In the words of the Secretary-General, “Energy is the golden thread that weaves together economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.” Many Member States have made commitments and implemented national programs toward the Sustainable Energy for All goals. In the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the three interlinked objectives of energy access, efficiency, and renewables, should be the golden thread that weaves together the international development agenda at a global level.